How are you doing with your New Year's Resolutions? New year's resolutions can be great but, many times, what starts off as a great idea can quickly become unrealistic in every day life and, as a result, abandoned pretty quickly. Instead, you might consider doing something a little different this year: choose a word of the year.
For the past decade, Webster’s dictionary has announced its “word of the year”, highlighting the most popular word of the year which typically reflects current events because they base their selection on page hits, online searches, and user suggestions. This idea has also become a popular habit for individuals who choose their own word of the year each January as a point of focus for the upcoming year. It is now becoming more and more popular to follow this practice in Christian circles with a particular emphasis on Scripture and the teachings of the Catholic Church in order to deepen our relationship with God. In this way, we prayerfully consider what the Lord may be placing on our hearts as a point of focus for 2024.
How about you, have you selected a word for 2024?
In choosing a word of the year, we are intentionally giving God a new opportunity to guide us in our everyday lives. It could be thought of as a focus word for the year which is a word or a phrase that might encapsulate what you feel you need more of, or what you want to be more intentional about, or to improve in.
BENEFITS OF THIS PRACTICE
Choosing a word of the year is an easily adopted practice with many benefits.
Focus - Once you have prayed about and discerned your word for the year, you might begin to notice that your word will pop into your head at seemingly random moments when God knows you need the reminder; or that you see it everywhere. For example, when a social media post catches your attention because it relates to your word or read the lyrics of a song you heard on the radio because your word was included in them. In every case, God uses the word in that moment to draw us closer to him and to impart a fresh perspective.
Incentive - Our word might show up at times that are less than convenient if not down right inconvenient. But remember, God knows how easy it is for us to become weighed down by the busyness of daily life and to lose sight of the bigger picture. This is especially true when life is more complicated. When we feel overwhelmed, it’s easy to shut down. At this point, our long-term goals seem impossible to attain. But somehow, something as small as our word of the year grabs our attention again and sets us back on track.
God never gives up on us and one of the ways he shows this is when He reminds us of the commitment we’ve made by putting our word in front of us again and again. Whatever your circumstances, a single word used as a focus can and will motivate you. You’ll gain an important spiritual goal and a desire to take concrete steps to solidify it.
Accountability - This naturally leads to accountability. Our chosen word hangs like a banner over our life. One of the enjoyable aspects of this practice is sharing it with friends. As soon as we say the word out loud, it's as if the deal is sealed and now what is needed is to persevere. Even if we never share our word with another living soul, God knows, and He is the best one to hold us accountable?
Remembering that we’re held accountable to God for every detail of our life ought to be natural, but it isn’t. Selective memory is real. But, we are much less likely to block God out of our mind when we’ve committed it to Him with a word.
When we realize the powerful benefits of a focus word, we can use this spiriutal tool as both a beneficial and enjoyable means to a spiritually fruitful end. So what will your word be this year?
Choosing a word of the year can provide focus, incentive, and accountability. Here are a few steps to get you started.
- Seek your word from God. No one knows your future better than the One who is already there. He is the only secure source of wisdom (Proverbs 2:6-9). Let Him place a word for this year on your heart.
- Reflect on the past year. God uses everything we go through in the present time as a prepration for the future so that we will produce a harvest of good fruit. What has been going on in your life over the last year? What difficulties and struggles have you had to deal with? Have you learned anything from them? Where was most of your time spent? Were there any significant changes? Where do you feel you thrived and excelled? Any missed opportunities? As you reflect on the past year, write down words or phrases that come to your mind.
- Search the Scriptures. Take your time here. Pray over each word and verse that you feel that God is placing on your heart, remembering "His word is a lamp unto your feet and a light unto your path" (Psalms 119:105).
If you cannot decide on a specific word in the ways listed above, consider using the following online tool to help you choose a word:
- Open your heart in prayer and invite the Holy Spirit to choose a word for you.
- Use this link to go to a "Word of the Year Generator" created by Jen Fulwiler (Catholic Stand-up commedian) and follow the instructions: https://www.wordoftheyear.me/
- Dig Deeper
- Jesus First
- Living Water
- Daily Bread
Once you have chosen a word, then use some of these suggestions to open yourself up to the Holy Spirit as He uses that word as a source of grace in your life.
- Learn all about what that word means by looking it up in the dictionary. Many words can be used as a noun, adverb, adjective, etc.
- Is the word used in Scripture? In what context?.
- Try to understand the Catholic meaning of the word. Follow this link to a Catholic Dictionary or this one.
- Use a notebook or a journal. As you look up the different definitions of that word, write down all of them. Don't worry if they make sense right away. I suggest using a notebook or a journal to write down what you learn. Throughout the year, everytime you learn something new about your word, write it down.
- Pray and reflect about what you are learning and apply it to your life.
- Be on the lookout for the way that word shows up in your life (e.g. in something you read, in a conversation with someone, on a billboard, in a song on the radio or a poem you hear, etc.) Does this use of the word apply to your life? Reflect on that. What might God be saying to you? Write it down.
- Make resolutions based on what you are learning and choose simple steps to put those resolutions into practice.
- Support it with a verse. Once the Lord has selected your word, find an supporting verse – a verse that resonates with your word. Because God’s word does not return void (Isaiah 55:11), this step is a critical part of living it out.
- Commit. Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and He will establish your plans (Proverbs 16:5). He establishes our plans as we commit them to Him. Some ways to commit can include keeping a journal, memorizing your anchor verse so it becomes second nature, and writing out all other verses related to your word. Ponder how this word applies to all areas of your life.
- Share. Share what God is doing in your life. Even though this is your word for the year, it may have a positive influence on others and inspire them as well.
In this way, you are orienting your heart to the movement of the Holy Spirit through this specific word. What He is saying to you through that word may be as clear as day, or it may be that He is using that word to sow seeds in your heart and the clarity will come later as those seeds grow and devleop. Maybe there are things going on in your life that are seemingly random and haphazzard. He may use that word to connect them - to connec the dots - in someway.
Whatever the case, persevere and you word will be a source of grace in your life.